Posts Tagged ‘AL Central’

While the St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins launched Opening Day of technically yesterday, the masses take to the field today and tomorrow. In honor of that, here is my complete MLB preview for the year brought on home. Here is how I see everybody crossing over and interweaving until there’s only one team left again. Hopefully, I will do much, much better than I did last year in this effort, but really, it can’t get much worse (sorry, I’m not forgiving myself for that).

At any rate, we’re doing the preview buffet spread here this year. Indulge in some MVP and Cy Young Picks, along with a few other predictions and possibilities as well. In addition, if you missed any of the Division-by-Division in-depth previews, which will explain much of this info, here are the links for each:

National League West, Central, East

American League West, Central, East

As for now, get on into it. Happy Opening Day, part deux….

Most likely to be much better than projected….

  1. Washington Nationals: With Stephen Strasburg returning to anchor a strong rotation, along with a solid lineup entrenched in a wide open division, the Nats could jump up make a run for a Wild Card Spot.
  2. Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays have been the “Best team in the wrong division” for the last three years. Eventually they’ll overcome in the fashion the Rays did before them in the AL East.
  3. Kansas City Royals: Like last year’s Arizona Diamondbacks proved, young teams with complete lineups can make a push, especially in a light division. The Royals are in an identical situation.

Playoff participant a year ago most likely to miss in ’12…

  1. Milwaukee Brewers: Losing Prince Fielder is huge, and this team could struggle to recapture the run scoring, high octane act that separated them from a tight pack in the Central a year ago.
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks: Momentum, mixed with a crucial injury to their prime competition’s lineup at the perfect time, propelled them into the playoffs last year. The road will not be as efficient this year.
  3. Tampa Bay Rays: I think the Rays are a complete team with the most to offer of any club in the game across the board. But coming out of the East is a war, and a brief slump could easily take them down, the same type they benefitted from a year ago.

If you haven’t seen this guy, you gotta….

  1. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: Only Griffey and A-Rod have hit more pre-23rd birthday homers than the Marlins newly named cleanup terror.
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: He has every tool that Justin Upton and Matt Kemp have…only they are buried in the abyss of Pittsburgh.
  3. Yu Darvish, Rangers: He’s unlike any other Japanese import before him. He throws the expected selection of off speed pitches, but bases them off a very American mid-90’s fastball.

Will have a big injury bounce back…

  1. Buster Posey, Giants: The axis of the Giants attack, he will return to drive the least-productive offense in the NL out of the cellar and give their potent pitching some leads to work with again.
  2. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: He looked back up to his former tricks in the spring: it took 10 innings for opponents to find a way to plate a run against him during his first in-game work in over a year.
  3. David Wright, Mets: The walls at Citi Field were moved in some, and Wright could be prone for a big season as a result in what could be an audition season for him for a move out of NY.

Worst New Injury

  1. Joakim Soria, Royals: The Royals have slowly been building up for a run, but their chances of starting it up early took a blow when Soria’s elbow collapsed this spring and he had a second Tommy John surgery.
  2. Michael Pineda, Yankees: The Yanks dealt their top prospect for the Mariners flame throwing young All-Star. However, when he showed for camp he could get out the low 90’s and was shutdown due to shoulder soreness.
  3. Ryan Madson, Reds: Another victim of Tommy John’s trap. His absence hurts a Reds pitching staff that looked to finally turn the corner.

Its gonna be a long summer….

  1. Houston Astros: Nothing’s gotten better for baseball’s worst team from last year and they are actually still moving out some of their better players as part of a franchise reboot.
  2. Baltimore Orioles: Tough spot for the O’s, entrenched in the AL East. But nobody wants to join their perpetual rebuilding effort, so a fire sale may start smoking soon.
  3. Chicago White Sox: This is every definition of baseball purgatory; stuck in the middle of the AL’s worst division in a wait-and-see approach based around several underachievers with huge contracts.

DBTH (Don’t Believe The Hype):

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Their big headline making purchase is a definitely a sign of better days to come, but that’s not going to affect them in the immediate, and another mediocre year is on deck until Magic’s money can start to save them.
  2. Miami Marlins: They made tons of waves by waving around a ton of cash this winter, but this is still a defensively subpar club and one that depends on its pitching heavily. That doesn’t mesh well.
  3. Boston Red Sox: Something about bringing in Bobby Valentine to restore order reminds me of expecting gas to put out a fire.

NATIONAL LEAGUE PICKS

NL MVP

  1. Joey Votto, Reds: He’ll have the world on his shoulders again, but the overall team should improve and his RBI numbers should as well. When combined with his Gold Glove defense and shot at a division crown, a second MVP is vision that could come clear.
  2. Justin Upton, D’Backs: He’s 24 and already leading a very talented cast in Phoenix. Jumps to a .300 average and 30 steals, along with steady power numbers slides him steadily up the best in the game discussions.
  3. Ryan Braun, Brewers:He’s all on his own leading the Brewers now, but another run at a batting title and repeat 30/30 season, along with most importantly keep the Brewers in the NL Central race should net him a shot at back-to-back MVP honors.

    If Braun can keep the Brewers in their stride from last year, despite their huge loss, he'll run away with MVP.

NL Cy Young

  1. Roy Halladay, Phillies: The Phillies are going to need pitching more than ever this year, and even an average, lax by his standards year from Doc is a default Cy Young for him. So imagine if he’s in crunch mode all year?
  2. Cole Hamels, Phillies A contract year will propel Hamels into his finest offering yet, and land him a Cy over his two former winners of the honor teammates in Halladay and Cliff Lee.
  3. Tim Lincecum, Giants: His numbers look a lot better when he gets the run support to turn his performances into wins. An improved Giants lineup should get him in the running again.

NL Rookie of the Year

  1. Zach Cosart, Reds: He showed the potential last year before quickly having his year ended due to injury. Now mixed into one of the league’s best lineups in Cincinnati, he’ll be able to produce without much spotlight solely on him.
  2. Yonder Alonso, Padres: He will be the day one cleanup hitter and first baseman for the Padres, and will have a surplus of chances to drive runs home.
  3. Devin Morasco, Reds: The Reds catcher could have a chance to make an offensive impact similar to Posey’s in Frisco two summers ago.

NATIONAL LEAGUE POSTSEASON

Wild Cards: Marlins (90-72) & Reds (88-74)

Divisional Round

Phillies (93-69) vs. Cardinals (91-71)

Giants (95-67) vs. Marlins

NLCS

Phillies vs. Giants ….

AMERICAN LEAGUE PICKS

AL MVP

  1. Albert Pujols, Angels: The best player in the game will make no delayed impact in his new league, and will be the catalyst for the Angels reclaiming of the AL West with a career year.
  2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: He’ll benefit hugely from protection Prince Fielder provides behind him, and will chase all three legs of the Triple Crown once again, winning at least one.
  3. Evan Longoria, Rays: Longoria is the driving force in the Rays all-around attack, and after a down year average wise, he’ll find his form again and set career marks across the board. And perhaps steal an MVP nod as well.

AL Cy Young

  1. Justin Verlander, Tigers: What he did last year was just so special that it’s foolish to think it was just a high water year. Another 24 wins is unlikely, but another pitcher’s Triple Crown is.
  2. David Price, Rays: He pitched in tough luck a lot last year, but a classic performance could be on hand if he brings his winning ways from ’10 along with his dominant style of ’11 together.
  3. CC Sabathia, Yankees:The game’s premier winner hasn’t won less than 19 games since reaching the Bronx, and he’ll continue to end up in 20 victories neighborhood again.

    Verlander was so good last year that it just seems like he went to another level that won't expire due to one winter getting in the way.

AL Rookie of the Year

  1. Jesus Montero, Mariners: He can kill the ball all around the park and has a legit shot at hitting both .290 and 25-30 homers. As a catcher, that’s a ROY year.
  2. Yu Darvish, Rangers: He’ll pitch in a lot of big games and will have a ton of expectations, but if he can stretch out his stamina and stay sharp, he’ll be an All-Star this year.
  3. Matt Moore, Rays: This can’t miss kid is the top pitching prospect in the game for a reason. He’ll be a huge matchup bonus for the Rays and could rack up huge strikeout numbers.

AL Postseason

Wild Cards: Texas Rangers (93-69) & New York Yankees (94-68)

Division Round

Detroit Tigers (99-63) vs. Texas Rangers

Los Angeles Angels (97-65) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)

ALCS

Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Angels ….

2012 WORLD SERIES

Los Angeles Angels vs. San Francisco Giants: How rare is an all-west coast World Series, that pits two teams against each other that missed the postseason completely the year before? (No seriously, I’m asking because I’m not looking that up.) However long it has been, both of these clubs land here due to submarine-deep pitching staffs, as well as lineups that have received major jolts in the run producing department, via trades, signings and young talent that can boost solid, yet previously stagnant lineups.

Cain's got a record-setting deal to start the year, and a second ring in three years could be a part of the end of it.

In the end, pitching wins out, and I firmly believe that if you have a pitching staff that can shoulder the load and make leads stand up, you’ve got the game’s ultimate winning formula. Via that equation, you have the San Francisco Giants, and you have my prediction for World Championship ballclub in 2012.

Of course you just as easily, could have the Chicago White Sox go on a final month (or even day) blitzkrieg, and throw all of this out the window. WHO KNOWS? But my logic says this is logic, so that’s what it shall be.

For more baseball, and life, coverage in the moment it comes to my mind, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Sorry for the delay in the Power Poll this week, the NBA Finals took a bit of time to wrap up yesterday. However, around that whole mix and mayhem on the court, Baseball had a great week and a good launch into it’s solo spotlight part of the year.

The week started off with yet another statement series atop the A.L. East, and ownership atop it (and CSP’s Power Poll) changed again. The meteoric rise of power of baseball’s hottest team over the last month took them to the top of the N.L. Central and the first coaching change of the season was made to right the path of a one of the main contenders for the Wild Card in the A.L. coming into the season.

Ortiz's continued hot bat help to sink the Yanks and raise the Sox to the top of the East once again.

The times are already a-changin around the league, and also in the Poll again. Here’s how Volume 11 is breaking out…

1. Red Sox (5): With their third sweep of the Yankees under their belt (which ran their record for 2011 against their rivals to 8-1), followed by taking three from Toronto, the Sox rise to the top of the poll for the first time since the debut edition.

2. Phillies (2): Despite playing with their full expected lineup for under two weeks this season, the Phils have not lost a game where they scored at least 5 runs all season. There will be a lot more of those games coming now.

3. Yankees (1): The Yankees started the week by continuing their troubles against the Red Sox, getting swept at home. They finished the week with Joba Chamberlain and Bartolo Colon joining the growing number of their already limited pitching staff on the DL. On a brighter note, Derek Jeter will most likely get his 3,000th hit this week.

4. Brewers (8): The Brewers runaway train ride through the National League met the league’s winningest club, in the Cardinals, over the weekend…and took three games from them in route to taking over control of Central for the first time in two years.

5. Cardinals (3): The Cardinals ran into a brick wall located in Milwaukee over the weekend, and are now (0-6) on during weekend road series against second place N.L. Central clubs, having twice lost control of the division this year in this fashion.

6. Braves (13): They finally found an opening to make a move in the East by sweeping the slumping Marlins and moving into second place. Johnny Venters’ shutdown act (0.44 ERA) has finally been moved to the ninth inning, assuring that many more Braves games may only eight innings from here out.

The Braves have placed Venters at the end of games now, and have went on a run since the move.

7. Giants (7): The Giants traded wins and loses with the Reds and Nationals all week, but retained control of the West despite only managing to bring in over two runs once in the last seven games.

8. Rangers (4): The A.L. Central was not as kind to Texas as they were the week before, with Twins and Tigers combining to snatch 5 games combined, yet they held on to control of the West by a game and a half.

9. Indians (6): They have dropped nine of their last eleven contests and have watched the biggest lead in all of baseball dwindle to a tie in the A.L. Central. Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot have all lost both of their last two starts in the process. They’ll look to take momentum from a shutout win in New York into Detroit to defend their place atop the Central.

10. Tigers (12): Austin Jackson is tearing the cover off the ball right now (.370 in June) and Magglio Ordonez is returning this week to put the Tigers at full strength for the first time nearly all year…and right as they have pulled to a tie atop the A.L. Central…and they host the Indians this week with the division up for the taking.

11. Rays (10): They remained a powerhouse on the road this past week, adding 5 wins to their A.L. leading 21 road wins on the season in L.A. and Baltimore.

12. D’Backs (9): They have cooled off from the tear that moved them to the top of the West for a week, but took three of four from the Marlins over the weekend, which puts them in position to move back to the top of the division as they host San Francisco this week.

13. Reds (14): The offense keeps slugging, and now the pitchers are getting in on their half of the bargain as well. After getting bashed around for the duration of May, they didn’t allow more than 2 runs in any game last week and finished the team’s first shutout in over month as well.

14. Mariners (15): Don’t look now, but the Mariners are in position to go for the top of the West and only play 3 road games for the rest of the month, starting with the Angels club they passed this past week.

15. Marlins (11): Things probably can’t get worse than are right now in Miami. They’ve dropped 10 of 11 contests to fall seven games back of the Phillies and still have no date for the return of Josh Johnson or Hanley Ramirez.

16. White Sox (19): After starting 0-8, John Danks won twice last week and surrendering 2 runs across 15 innings in the process.

17. Blue Jays (17): In the ever changing A.L. East, despite finding themselves in the best condition of any East club, are still just a half game out of last place all of a sudden after dropping three to the Red Sox over the weekend.

18. Mets (21): Even though their rotation is far from in the condition it projected as, over the last 17 games they have the lowest ERA of any team in baseball.

19. Pirates (20): Despite a growing Disabled List (which 2010 All-Star Evan Meek joined this past week as well), the Bucs are staying in the middle of the mix, thanks to the continued improvement of Andrew McCutchen.

McCutchen has put together another step forward season and is bringing the Bucs along with him.

20. Dodgers (18): Clayton Kershaw proved to be mortal briefly this past week, giving up as many runs (12) in his last two starts as he did in his previous seven combined.

21. Angels (16): The Angels offense is still stuck in it’s slump from last season (if that’s possible) and Vernon Wells’ return offers some hope for a turnaround, as they have fallen into the bottom three in the A.L. in runs scored.

22. Rockies (23): They had more success this past week than they have in a while, but despite scoring 30 runs over the weekend, they still split the series against the Dodgers and didn’t have a single game decided by more than four runs.

23. Nationals (26): Drew Storen’s first full season as a closer continues to be the highlight of the National’s season. He closed out three consecutive wins for the club over the weekend and is 15 for 16 overall in save situations this year.

24. Orioles (25): They showed some life during a a four game winning streak kicked off the week, before dropping an extra inning affair to the Rays on Saturday. They continue their all or nothing ways this season.

25. Royals (27): While their successes have continued to turn down, their prized prospects have continued to turn up. Most recently 2010 Minor League Player of the Year Mike Moustakas joined the mix in KC, and hit his first career homer in his second game up.

26. Padres (22): A sign of the difficulties in San Diego: Chase Headley’s homer on Thursday was the first out of the three slot in the lineup the entire season. The promotion of prized prospect Anthony Rizzo could help change things here by the end of the year.

27. Twins (29): Francisco Liriano returned from a brief stint on the DL, and the rest appears to have paid off. He has struck out 16 in 13.1 innings since in two starts: one being a 1-0 loss and the second being nearly his second no-hitter of the season in a win on Sunday.

28. A’s (24): Manager Bob Geren was fired after the club’s losing streak hit 9 games and Bob Melvin took his place for the remainder of the season…and has gone 1-4 since taking over.

29. Cubs (30): Teams are hitting .267 against the Cubs, 28th worse in baseball…which is a point higher than they are hitting as a club at .266 (third best in baseball). Pitching wins ballgames.

30. Astros (29): A rough week facing the Cardinals followed by the Braves was concluded by their best pitcher in Wandy Rodriguez landing on the DL. These are the breaks on this end of the poll.

Follow me on Twitter for more and more baseball coverage with the summer wiiiiiide open now at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

A familiar face has found themselves back on top of baseball’s premier division, and atop the Power Poll’s 10th incarnation as well. This was aided by so-so weeks by nearly every other elite club in last week’s poll, and the great West Coast swing by the Yankees in route to passing up the Red Sox and holding back the Rays as well.

In the National League, the Phillies couldn’t win anything that didn’t involve Doc Halladay somehow, and the Giants slowed the Cardinals potential rise to the top of the charts as well. Overall, it was a very competitive week, that featured a return to form by the Rangers, who enter the top 5 for the first time in over a month and also the waking up of sleeping giant…or more appropriately, Cardinal over the weekend.

Pujols became the best closer in baseball this weekend, ending two games with over 800 feet worth of home runs.

 

That and more in the CHEAP.SEATS’ weekly rundown of all 30 in big league baseball.

1. Yankees (5): The Yanks return to the top of the list due to mix of rounding back into form at the plate from the heart of the order; Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are starting their annual mid-summer assaults now. But Bartolo Colon’s resurgence has given them a much needed extra boost on the hill which has alluded them all year.

Teixeira is beginning to heat up with the weather, like every year, and the Yanks are coming up with him.

2. Phillies (1): The Phils hit their first real rough stretch of the year, dropping four consecutive road shows against the Nationals and Pirates. They picked up the bookends of the week which (no surprise) Roy Halladay started.

3. Cardinals (3): With two-walk off homers under his belt this weekend to beat the rival Cubs, and five in the last week, Albert Pujols looks as if he’s starting to come back into his usual other worldly form. Right on time too with Matt Holliday joining the Disabled List for the next two weeks

4. Rangers (8): The revival in Texas is full “swing” ahead, however this time it’s not lead by their bats alone. C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Holland and Alexi Ugando gave up just one run over 32.2 innings last week while building a 5-game winning streak over the Rays and Indians.

5. Red Sox (4): They opened the week in bad shape dropping three to the White Sox, but Carl Crawford becoming an RBI machine over the last week (8 in the last six games, 3 game winners) sparked a turnaround that keeps them one game behind the Yanks.

6. Indians (2): Dropping all four games of a set in Texas, the Indians have finally hit their first snag of the year. With Shin Soo-Choo battling the after effects of a DUI arrest and Travis Hafner still weeks from returning from the D.L., they will have to be on the defensive in the protecting their steadily decreasing lead in the A.L. Central.

7. Giants (10): GM Brian Sabean’s comments concerning revenge over Buster Posey’s injury have gotten the most headlines, but the Giants themselves made some encouraging news as well. In the course of winning three of four in St. Louis they moved back into first place in the West and showed signs of life after Posey.

8. Brewers (12): They keep climbing up the rankings, thanks in no small part to Ryan Braun. Despite sitting most the game with a sore shoulder, he homered to win the game as a pinch hitter and subsequently pull the Brewers into control of the early Wild Card watch as well.

With 13 homers, .308 average and 42 RBI, Braun has become an MVP front-runner while propelling the Brewers back into several races in the N.L.

9. D’Backs (9): They cooled down last week, but still are a game out from retaking first place in the West. Most encouraging is that some of the bats that hadn’t thawed out all year are starting to come around, such as Kelly Johnson (.366 average, six home runs and 13 RBI over his last 10 games).

10. Rays (7): In a star-studded rotation, the youngster of the batch has stepped to the forefront. Jeremy Hellickson notched his staff leading seventh win in Seattle and stopped their four game losing skid in the process.

11. Marlins (6): Mike Stanton (13 home runs) and Gaby Sanchez (.321 average) have held this club together, but they have taken it as far as it can go without a productive Hanley Ramirez (.210 avg and 4 homers). Whether it is health or slump fighting, they have to get something from their perennial All-Star soon if they are to not repeat last weeks horrid performance (5 losses to) soon.

12. Tigers (16): The streaky Tigers turned it on again at the right time with the Indians taking a dip, and now are within striking range at taking control of the A.L. Central this week. The potential return of Magglio Ordonez from an ankle injury could be the final piece they need in arming up to overtake the Tribe.

13. Braves (11): Last week they couldn’t make up ground on Philly or Florida because neither would lose? Well this week they did, and the Braves lost right along with them and missed a prime opportunity to get into the mix in the East.

14. Reds (14): Jay Bruce is leading the N.L. in home runs with 17 and Joey Votto is it’s leading hitter at .338, but they’ll only go as far as their starters will allow them still and that’s a major question mark as they continue to play musical chairs with the rotation.

15. Mariners (17): The march of the Mariners continues, and they continue to be one of the hottest teams in either league (haven’t lost a series since the second week of May), despite being one of its most lopsided (2nd in Quality Starts with 30, but last in batting average at .230).

Felix is in a familiar position from last season again, where every run squeaked out for him is a big deal.

16. Angels (13): Mark Trumbo (11 home runs) has supplied a solid power threat in a lineup that needs one, but they are still struggling to find consistency and have dropped below .500 despite having a rotation in the top 10 in the Majors in team ERA, quality starts and batting average against.

17. Blue Jays (16): The unlikely support from Corey Patterson (.292 average) and Adam Lind (.326 average) have made the Jays far more than just a one man highlight act via Jose Bautista. They are in the top 5 in all of baseball in batting average and runs scored.

18. Dodgers (21): Despite all of their team struggles, Matt Kemp continues to put in an MVP-caliber effort. His 48 RBI lead the N.L. and 16 homers come in at second best.

19. White Sox (26): The Sox are slowly pulling it together and could be a player in an A.L. Central that is beginning to balance itself out, but they’ll need was more from the their biggest offseason signing in Adam Dunn (.179 average, 5 homers) if they are going to crash the party for very long.

20. Pirates (20): Kevin Correia isn’t winning in the same style that his other contemporaries in the wins column are (3.40 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 76.2 innings), but he still is tied atop the N.L. in the stat along with Roy Halladay and Yovani Gallardo at eight. Could he hang around and make a play to be the first Pirate to lead the league for a full year since John Smiley in 1991?

21. Mets (23): Jose Reyes has been a one-man show for much of the year, but Angel Pagan has returned from the D.L. a different man than he was before it, hitting in all eight games since returning at a .394 clip, and giving an often flat Mets offense another spark at the top of it.

Pagan's hot return to the Met lineup is both welcomed and needed, as they (once again) have little healthy support.

22. Rockies (18): An interestingly mundane stat: since taking two of two from the Giants on May 16-17, they have dropped each series they have been a part of, but have only been swept once in the process.

23. Padres (27): Chase Headley is on a 15-game hitting streak currently and is the latest Padre to begin to wake up at the plate, and now they are on the verge of being able to pull out of last place in the West for the first time in a while.

24. A’s (19): The scheduling Gods did not smile upon Oakland last week, first sending them to visit the Yanks and then back home to meet the Red Sox. Their East Coast fling with two of baseball’s best netted them the current six-game losing streak they’re riding.

25. Orioles (22): In a bit of rare potentially long-term good news in Baltimore, Brian Matsuz will make his season debut this week and it couldn’t come at a better time: no Orioles starter has been able to net back-t0-back wins in the last month.

26. Nationals (28): Party crashers: something fired up the Nats as they took the fight to two division leading clubs last week in the Phillies and D’Backs, taking 2 of 3 from Philly, followed by splitting a four game set in Arizona after scoring 5-runs in the top of 11th inning on Sunday afternoon.

27. Royals (25): They single-handedly gave the Twins more victories last weekend than they were able to muster in nearly the entire month beforehand. That was the second of their recent string of bad news following  the demotion of their formerly All-Star caliber closer Joakim Soria after blowing his third save within a week.

28. Astros (29): They are on the verge of pulling themselves out of the bottom of the Central standings for the first time in a while, with it being a mixture of their brief brush with success (4-game win streak), albeit against the Cubs who could be replacing them in the division’s cellar.

29. Twins (30): They are currently riding their longest win streak of the season, and get Francisco Liriano back from the D.L. this week. Unfortunately their only consistent hitter on the year, Jason Kubel, had to replace him there.

30. Cubs (24): Not only are they in the midst of a week-long losing streak, but Carlos Zambrano is back to his usual tricks. After losing his start on Sunday in St. Louis he not only criticized closer Carlos Marmol, but the entire franchise as well. Clearly there is a lot wrong here, but not sure if that’s the right place (or person) to go pointing them out.

Follow me on Twitter for more on the world of batted balls, rants and info on the fly at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

MLB POWER POLL: Week 9

Posted: May 30, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

There has been a lot of turnover all around the Show, and this week’s Power Poll reflects it. Two teams that spent the better part of the first two months of the season close the cellar in their divisions completed quick rises to the top of their divisions. In the National League, three East teams reached 30 wins, while on the opposite coast the entire world got shook up, in multiple ways. As for the A.L., the East gained a fourth different team to reach the top of division already, and saw the first guy reach 20 homers.

Ian Kennedy (6-1, 3.01 ERA, 59 K's) anchors yet another 2011 last-to-first resurrection, this time in Arizona.

At the top of the Poll here, after week off from the top, we see a familiar squad regain #1, while on the other hand, the bottom feeders are getting way too “comfortable” in that spot. More on them, and the 28 clubs in-between here:

 

 

1. Phillies (2): The Phillies regained Chase Utley this week as well as the top spot here while running through the Rockies and Mets with little interference. Despite being in a division with three of the four best records in the N.L., they have been in first place consecutive all year in the East….and are just now getting close to full strength.

2. Indians (1): The Tribe faced two of their peers this week in Boston and Tampa, and only mustered two wins. The three game mid-week losing streak was their longest of the season, which speaks to their consistency.

3. Cardinals (5): Colby Rasmus had a big weekend, going 4 for 4 with two triples on Friday and hit his first home run in over a month, as the Cards took four of six on their week-long west coast trip.

4. Red Sox (10): The way the Sox are playing right now has that horrible start that had them buried in the East just two weeks ago looking like a mirage. Carl Crawford’s resurgence has led the way, including going 8 for 9 over two games, as the Sox won both by putting up 14 runs in each.

5. Yankees (6): The Yanks have hit 19 more home runs than any team in baseball (79), yet still have struggled to put together a prolonged winning streak to return of the A.L. East (no win streak longer than 3 games all season).

6. Marlins (7): Even with ace Josh Johnson continuing to man the D.L., the Marlins remain the best team to not lead a division all season, as their sweep of the formerly red-hot Giants last week proved.

7. Rays (4): The Rays couldn’t hold off the hell-hot Red Sox from overtaking them in the East, and have also fallen a half game behind the Yankees as well, proof that nearly every game is a must win in baseball’s best division.

8. Rangers (8): Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz had immediate impacts in their return to health, both homering in their first game back on Monday. Consequently, the Rangers had their best week in over a month as well. Coincidence….?

9. D’Backs (18): Since May 17th, the Diamondbacks have lost exactly once and it separates their two six-game winning streaks. In the process they have come from an 18-23 standing to being a 29 win divisional leader.

10. Giants (3): This was about as bad of week as could be imagined by the Bay. Not only did they lose five of their last six games, they lost Buster Posey for the next 110 as well after breaking his left leg and ankle in a gruesome injury. He may have taken the Giants hopes to repeat atop the West along with him too.

11. Braves (11): The N.L. East is the only division with three teams to reach 30 wins this season, but the Braves are the definition of tough luck, as they can’t break out of third place despite winning four of five last week.

12. Brewers (13): The Brewers have finally gotten back to full strength, and it shows. Since opening the month on a six game losing streak, they have haven’t lost back to back games have won 16 of their last 21 games. Watch out Cardinals…

13. Angels (13): With a light week of work behind them against the A’s and Twins, the Angels remain in the mix with the rehabbed Rangers in the West, with Torii Hunter beginning to round back into shape as well (.308 average last week, .240 for the season overall).

14. Reds (9): They can’t seem to get right recently, and it all traces back to pitching (or lack thereof). They demoted Opening Day starter Edison Volquez to the minors this week and Travis Wood’s 5.11 ERA is the lowest among their starting rotation.

15. Blue Jays (16): Jose Bautista became the first player to reach 20 home runs this year, and they took three of four from the White Sox this weekend to stay in the picture in the A.L. East, just three games back. Ricky Romero is quietly having a great year to add the much-needed stability they’ll need from their rotation if they will close the gap anymore.

17. Mariners (20): The Mariners pitching-led climb up the standings continues, as they nearly swept the Yankees at home over the weekend. However, if they are to be taken serious, Ichiro and Chone Figgins (a combined 7 for their last 75) have to wake up at the top of their lineup.

18. Rockies (14): Their 15-run outburst against the Cardinals on Saturday ended their four game losing streak, but it was way closer to the exception than the rule for a Rockies club that is hitting only .245 on the year.

19. A’s (22): The West is so wide open that the A’s despite being in last place are still only a game and a half from being back on top of it. Josh Willingham (four extra base hits and nine RBI last week) could finally becoming the spark the offense needs to make a move in Oakland.

20. Pirates (19): Kevin Correia became the first N.L. pitcher to reach seven wins for Pirates and they continue stay close to .500, despite having a losing record at home for the year.

21. Dodgers (24): After taking two wins against a strong Marlins club this weekend (their first series win since May 9-12, perhaps they are getting ready to get in the mix in ever-changing N.L. West.

22. Orioles (25): The O’s had a week that summarizes their efforts this year perfectly this week. They opened up the week making short work of the Royals during a sweep….and then capitalized on that momentum by turning around and being swept by the A’s.

23. Mets (21): Off the field they continued to fare just as bad, as owner Fred Wilpon spread his continued critical public assessment of this club by challenging the injured David Wright instead of the club on the field that showed little fight against the Cubs and Phillies.

24. Cubs (27): The roller coaster ride that is the Cubs continued this week, as they won and lost games by 10 runs against the Mets and Pirates. As long as their starting pitching continues to be lackluster (only the injured Matt Garza has an ERA under 4.00) their struggles will continue.

25. Royals (17): The landslide of the Kansas City Royals continues, as they were handled in short order by the Orioles and Rangers. Overall, they have had two five-game losing streaks in the last two weeks have dropped seven of their last eight.

26. White Sox (23): The Sox were building some momentum up in the Central to try to make a move, but then the Blue Jays took 3 straight from them over the weekend and Ozzie Guillen responded by launching into their critics in his own unique style. That could be becoming a limited time act soon.

27. Padres (28): Ryan Ludwick’s 10 game hitting streak came to an end this week, but it raised finally gave the National League’s worst offense (.296 team on-base percentage, worst in either league) a much needed spark.

28. Nationals (26): They’ve dropped firmly into last place in the East, and to make things worse, manager Manny Acta and their major offseason signing Jayson Werth have fallen out already. The annual long summer in D.C. has officially started.

29. Astros (29): Brett Wallace and Hunter Pence are leading a lineup that has some potential, but their pitching staff continues to hit (J.A. Happ homered sunday) better than it pitches (the ‘Stros were outscored 22-11 while being swept in Arizona over the weekend).

30. Twins (30): They have basically become this year’s equivalent of the 2010 Mariners: much talent and expectation, but sank by injuries and inconsistencies. Their Mauer-less offense is last in the Majors in runs scored with 175.

 

No MVP or Cy Young picks yet this week. They’ll be discussed in a quarter season All-Star article later in the week.

 

For more around the bases and the League, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

 

Interleague play kicked off this week, and it had a direct impact on the Poll. The overall theme of this kickoff weekend in cross league play was largely geographic rivalries, and it produced some decisive in-state matchups, as fellas some major impact on the standings of the leagues they returned too.

Shin-Soo Choo and the Indians have the biggest lead in any division in baseball and their 29 wins are the best of any club. They're legit...and #1.

After the dust settles, the American League took a slight edge vs the National League, going 22-20 this weekend. But the impact of two series in particular made a big impact in the Top 3 of this poll, pushing two teams to new heights….starting at the top. Let’s go.

1. Indians (2): They were great to start the week in Kansas City (2-0), then bad in Chicago (0-2), but then finished up at their best, sweeping a weekend series against their stateside rivals in Cincinnati. By crossing league boundaries and beating up one of the NL’s best, they finally make their way over the hump to the top of the Power Polls. The Cinderella story in Cleveland keeps on going.
2. Phillies (1): For the first time in nearly a month, the Phils fall from the top of the rankings. Partially due to a quick sweep in St. Louis and struggles against Colorado to start the week off. However, Cliff Lee bounced back and struck out 10 of his former mates in Texas over the weekend, and now they finally get Chase Utley back this week, so a return to the top could be in short order.
3. Giants (5): The Giants ride their second strong win streak of the month to their highest ranking to date, and overall have won 12 of 15 games since opening up the month 2-3.
4. Rays (3): It’s getting crowded atop the AL East, but the Rays stay in this position after holding down the top of the division against a tough Marlins squad on the road this weekend behind yet another strong outing from James Shields (more on that later).
5. Cardinals (7): They bounced back strong from what could have been a deflating sweep in Cincinnati last weekend to take two of two from the N.L.’s best club (and Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt specifically) to start the week, and finished it by winning a demanding series against the Royals in K.C. Now they have regained control of the Central, and hold their biggest lead to date.
6. Yankees (10): The Bombers put their tough times behind them with five wins last week, and have pulled back even atop the A.L. East with Tampa Bay. Curtis Granderson’s 16 homers are second in the A.L. and Alex Rodriguez finally hit his way out of his month-long slump with 13 hits last week, three of them landing over the fence.
7. Marlins (8): The Marlins continue to hang around as the best team in baseball that can’t get into first place, but they’ll be put to their toughest challenge of the young season now with their ace Josh Johnson sitting on the Disabled List with an injured shoulder.
8. Rangers (13): With the mediocrity of the A.L. West this year, all it takes is not losing too much and you’ll get your turn atop the division. And after going 3-4 last week that’s where the Rangers find themselves again. However, with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz returning this week, they are in position to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack again.
9. Reds (4): They are currently stuck in a season-worst 5 game slide that has seen them fall out of first place, against the likes of the Pirates and the formerly secondary Ohio squad, the Indians, this week. With a trip to Philly to kick off this week, they’ll have to dig down deep to stop the bleeding.
10. Red Sox (14): Are they beginning to figure it out? Adrian Gonzalez is destroying the ball right now ( his 65 hits and 41 RBI both lead the Majors), and he went 10 for 15 over the weekend versus the Cubs. After going 8-2 over their last 10, they are the hottest team in the A.L. and a half game out of first in the East.
11. Braves (9): Injuries have taken Jason Heyward and Nate McLouth from their lineup, and for a lineup that is only hitting .242 as a team this season, these absences could put more pressure on their pitching than they can handle on a nightly basis.
12. Angels (6): Torii Hunter went 2-4 with a homer on Sunday, and since it is now clear that their best hitter, Kendrys Morales, will not play this season, Hunter has to get his overall production up (.231 average)  if the Halos are going to hang in with the Rangers, who are getting healthy in a hurry.
13. Brewers (20): The Brewers have been up and down all season, but now that their pitching is getting healthy they are quietly running into the Cardinals/Reds mix atop the N.L. Central. Key to this has been the turnaround of Yovani Gallardo (2 wins, 14 strikeouts in last 12 innings).
14. Rockies (15): The mediocrity of the Rockies continues, as they cannot find any measure of consistency, albeit against a tough schedule recently against the Giants, Phillies and Brewers. Ubaldo Jimenez’s Sunday performance (8 innings, 2 hits) could be a sign of hope, although they still dropped the matchup.
15. Tigers (11): When going is great, it’s great in the D, but when it’s bad….yeah. After being the bullies of the A.L. for the better part of the last two weeks, the Tigers could only mustered one win last week. After second losing streak of 5 or more games in the last month, they have slid seven games back of the Indians in the Central.
16. Blue Jays (16): With the East getting more and more competitive, the give me games become that much more important. Losing 2 of 3 to the N.L.’s worst in the Astro to start off their interleague schedule is a failure to capitalize on this rule.
17. Royals (12): Not sure of what to take from the Royals. They rode a team-wide hot streak to their best start in years, but now have lost 10 of their last 15 games and are headed down quickly. Now they have to resist the urge to spark relight their early season flame by putting too much of their youth movement into play too early, regardless of how well Eric Homser has fared thus far (.288 and 3 homers in first 15 games).
18. D’Backs (26): They made the desert the last place anybody wanted to be last week, winning six of seven against the Padres, Braves and Twins. Could they be putting themselves in line to be the party crashers in the West this season?
19. Pirates (19): Are the days of the guaranteed 100 loss Pirates a thing of the past? It’s still semi-early, but after going 4-1 against legit foes in the Reds and Tigers to end last week, they are looking like a legit .500 area team this year.
20. Mariners (24): Ichiro is struggling right now (.192 average last week), but with the efforts that Felix Hernandez (3.01 ERA, AL-Best 77 strikeouts) and young Michael Pineda (14 innings, n0 runs, 16 strikeouts and 2 wins last week) are giving they don’t need give much. They went 6-1 last week and pulled out of the A.L. West cellar for the first time all year.
21. Mets (21): The Mets are actually playing their best ball of the year right now, but you wouldn’t know it from owner Fred Wilpon’s financially frustrated outburst against some of his best players in Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran this week. By the time David Wright returns from his back fracture injury, this team could look completely different.
22. A’s (17): With the A’s bullpen struggles now joining their lineup in handicapping their starters potential, they have finally hit the bottom of the A.L. West. Their current five-game losing streak is their longest of the season, and has seen them top 4 runs only once and blow 2 saves.
23. White Sox (27): The Sox seem to finally be waking up. They are benefiting from the Royals and Tigers’ struggles and are moving up the division standings, and if Jake Peavy can keep throwing like he did this week (complete game 3-hitter, 8 strikeouts), the Sox will be a player in the A.L. Central picture before too long.
24. Dodgers (18): This is a team where only 3 guys (Kemp, Ethier and Kershaw) seem to be up to playing every time out, and it shows that perhaps the front office woes have impacted the on-field effort as well.
25. Orioles (19): The O’s are 2-7 in their last their last four A.L. East series, and are becoming the bonus win in the division for the East Coast top dogs. Zach Britton, who wasn’t even supposed to be on their roster right now, represents their only real chance at a win weekly.
26. Nationals (22): They have the lowest on-base percentage of any team in the National League, and are squeezing every bit of production they can get from their pitching staff. If they can find a way to get a few more games to Drew Storen (9 for 9 in save opportunities and 0.38 ERA), they’d be in much better shape.
27. Cubs (25): They took the fight to the Red Sox all weekend, but when your second best starter (Ryan Dempster) is sporting an ERA that is pushing seven (6.91) wins are going to be tough to come by. With uncertain injuries to Matt Garza and Marlon Byrd in play now as well, things aren’t looking up for the Cubs.
28. Padres (28): The Pads are struggling to put anything on the board, but Ryan Ludwick is doing his part with a ten-game hitting streak and a .439 average during it.
29. Astros (29): The biggest news out of Houston is that the Astros were sold this week, which should come as no surprise considering their 17 wins have them in the cellar of the league’s most wide open division by 10.5 games.
30. Twins (30): Delmon Young returned to provide some hope of a turnaround and Carl Pavano had his best outing of the year, but 15 wins at the end of May is still exactly what it looks like. This is probably beyond even Joe Mauer’s reach of salvation at this point.

M-V-Me: My Picks for each side’s best so far

NL-Joey Votto: Despite the Reds going through a rough patch and losing their grip on first place in the Central, he continues to pound the ball. His average sits at .335 (3rd in the NL) and his combined on-base + slugging is 2nd in league as well. He hit a huge homer to centerfield in Cleveland in Sunday, which could be a sign that he’s about to make a run up the power charts as well.(Runners Up: Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun)

AL-Jose Bautista: The Blue Jay plugged continues to kill the ball, and is in the rare position of having such a good season that his individual numbers are so good they override the mediocrity of his club. He is near the top of the Triple Crown categories by a comfortable margin with a .353 average (2nd) and 18 home runs (best in the Majors). It’s early to call it now, but he could be on the way to making his 54 homer breakout last year be an afterthought to this year’s performance.

Bautista is hitting round-trippers at a rate that may get the record books attention soon.

KINGS OF THE HILL

NL-Tim Lincecum: The 2-time Cu Young winner showed why he’ll definitely be adding to that collection again one day this weekend. He bounced back from one of his worst starts of the year with one of the his best of his career. He retired 21 straight Giants while walking none to land his 4th win of the year and lower his ERA to 2.06. He keeps on throwing, and the Giants keep on rising.

Lincecum sent 21 straight A's back to the bench in his second start of the week, and one of the best of his career.

AL-James Shields: Their timely hitting has gotten many of the headlines, but the real reason the Rays have resurrected their season so quickly is because of their pitching. And their biggest asset this year is Shields. He botched his fifth win yesterday via his 2nd shutout of the season with a career high 13 strikeouts. Overall, he is in the top 5 in wins (5), ERA (2.00) and strikeouts (73). (Runners Up: Trevor Cahill, Josh Beckett)

Tough week at the top for the top 5 from last week’s poll, as none of them could carry a winning record and the Yankees in particular stuck in a major rut that featured only one win. Two clubs were knocked from the top of their divisions in the National League, and the one Cy Young leader took two losses in one week for the only club that retained their division lead.

Lincecum's hot hand has the Giants looking like champs again...and rising up the Poll.

There was a lot of movement in the middle of the pack, however, so if there happens to be another week like this one, there could be a completely different look to this poll very soon. But for now, here’s how it goes and it looks somewhat familar….for now.

1. Phillies (1): The Phils hold down number one again, on the basis of they split a ridiculously tough week against their top division foes in Florida and Atlanta, but ace Roy Halladay took 2 L’s in the process (both coming in complete games), which kept it from being a big statement week.

2. Indians (2): They had their home winning streak ended at 14 games, but the Tribe’s amazing early season run continues atop the AL Central. They only got one game in during a nearly completely rained out weekend series against the Mariners, which could have propelled them to the top of this poll.

3. Rays (3): They continued to prove they are legit, after opening up the week ending the Indians home invincibility. Matt Joyce has kept his hot bat and is now tied for the AL lead in hitting at .368 coming into the week.

4. Reds (8): They may have made another statement this week, by knocking off the bottom of the Central in Houston, before taking the fight to Cardinals by sweeping them….and taking first place in the process.

5. Giants (11): They continued to take advantage of the slumping Rockies, and took over first place for the first time this season out west. Tim Lincecum is riding a 17 inning scoreless streak currently, and overall they have won eight of nine games.

6. Angels (6): The Halos dropped two series last week, and Jared Weaver has now lost 3 starts in a row after opening up 6-0. In dropping two during a weekend series to the Rangers, their lead in the West is down to half a game.

7. Cardinals (5): After having not lost a series since the first week of April, the Cardinals were brought back to reality in an aggressive way over the weekend, being swept by their divisional rivals in Cincinnati and slipping into second place behind them as well.

8. Marlins (7): Although they lost their week-opening series against the Phillies, they did defeat Roy Halladay for the one win in the series with ace Josh Johnson starting, 2-1. Their biggest task now is a balancing act between holding off the charging Braves and still being able to narrow the gap between them and Philly as well.

9. Braves (10): Dan Uggla’s 8th inning solo homer was the second of the year that the Phil’s Halladay has surrendered, and pushed his average over .200 finally. It also gave the Braves their second series win over the division leading Phillies in the young season.

10. Yankees (4): The Yanks are mired in an all-around bad situation right now, being in their longest losing streak (5 games) in 2 years, dropping their fifth out of six matchups against the Red Sox this season and topping it off with veteran Jorge Posada opting out of the lineup and adding yet another element to the struggle in the Bronx.

11. Tigers (15): Justin Verlander almost went back to back with his no-hit bids last week, and didn’t allow a hit over a span of 50 batters at one point over three starts. In the process the Tigers are having a season-high 7 game win streak as well.

12. Royals (12): The Royals have continued to play solid baseball, as evidenced by their first series win in New York since 1999. However after dropping 2 games to them over the weekend, they were overtaken for second place in the AL Central by the surging Tigers.

13. Rangers (13): Even with their multiple injury issues, the Rangers are still plugging along, and made a move to regain control in the AL West after winning 2 of 3 from the Angels over the weekend. Josh Hamilton is already taking batting practice in his recovery from a broken wrist, and if he can rejoin the club soon, they could be in position to make another big statement like their early April impact.

14. Red Sox (16): For the first time in the season, the Red Sox are at .500, with 20 wins and losses. This weekend capped what has been the one surefire bright spot for the team this season: they are handling the Yankees with ease. In 14 innings against the Yanks this year, Josh Beckett has only allowed 6 hits, has 19 strikeouts and 0.00 ERA.

15. Rockies (9): The hard times continue in Colorado, as they dropped two series this week against the lowly Mets and Padres, and finally saw what was a 4.5 game lead in the West be overtaken in the process.

16. Blue Jays (21): Jose Bautista got a full week back in the lineup, and the Jays turned the corner. His three home run game on Sunday pulled them into a tie for third place in the East, and if they can stay at it, they’ll be able to benefit big time from the inconsistencies that have plagued New York and Boston recently.

17. A’s (14): Trevor Cahill finally showed himself to be beatable, giving up 10 hits over seven innings and dropping the deciding game of a weekend series versus the White Sox. He only allowed two earned runs however in the process, and his ERA raised to 1.82 in the process…still good for second in the AL.

18. Dodgers (20): The guys in LA seem to refuse to NOT define what a .500 club is all about. After taking two from a hot Pirates club to start the week out, they lost a chance to get into the picture atop the West by losing 2 of 3 to the D’Backs…at home.

19. Orioles (28): The streakiest club in the game turned their fortunes around this past week, winning five of six versus the Mariners and Rays. But for a squad that has had both an 8-game losing streak along with multiple stretches such as the one they are currently riding this year, tomorrow never knows.

20. Brewers (27): After being roughed up in his debut (4 innings, 4 runs and a loss), Zack Greinke has answered with wins his last two starts, and is providing some real confidence on the mound for a team that had none while he was out.

21. Mets (23): The Mets won two series in one week for the first time all season, but had a rough road along the way to doing it. They lost Chris Young for the season to a shoulder muscle tear and their leading RBI man Ike Davis landed on the DL as well.

22. Nationals (19): The Nats hit a rough spot last week, as the Marlins and Braves handled them in short order last week. On the bright side, Jason Marquis picked up both of their wins last week, and his tied for the NL lead in wins with 5.

23. Pirates (17): The Bucs have been playing solid ball, but they are currently in the middle of their longest losing streak of the season, at five games. For a club that is not used to really any level of success, how they react to either ending this stretch, or giving into it, will tell a lot about who they are.

24. Mariners (18): For the last few weeks they were looking like they were ready to make an earnest push to be in the AL West mix, but they have now dropped six straight games, and perhaps mercifully had their last two games of the weekend in Cleveland rained out.

25. Cubs (24): Since the beginning of May, they have only been able to put together back-to-back wins once, and considering they are in middle of a brutal stretch of scheduling fate (Cardinals, Giants, Marlins, Red Sox and Reds…twice), something will have to give in a hurry if they want to change this trend and get in the mix in the wide open NL Central.

26. D’Backs (22): Tim Lincecum held them without a hit through seven innings during what became a 1-0 loss on Thursday, that also completed a Giant sweep. If they can get more games to their big offseason signing J.J. Putz (9 saves in 9 chances), they’d probably be in a better place.

27. White Sox (30): They got back Jake Peavy on Wednesday, and got six innings of encouraging performance from him. What should be most encouraging is what they put the finishing touches on this weekend, a winning week. This was the first time they had won four games in a week since early April.

28. Padres (25): Mat Latos finally got his first win of the season yesterday, as the Pads finally gave him some real run support this year. Overall, they had their best offensive week of the year, scoring over six runs five times, and winning three of the five games.

29. Astros (28): Not much to get excited about here (as you can see by their rank), but they did stop a four game slide with a win over Cincinnati….but followed it by dropping two of three against the Mets.

30. Twins (26): Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter a week ago failed to spark anything in the Twins, or even in their talented lefty. He followed that historic start-up by surrending four runs in three innings before being yanked. Overall, they are in their longest losing streak of the year currently, at eight games and have a total of 12 wins on the year, a mark they reached by April 23rd a year ago.

M-V-ME: My Picks for the League’s Best

NL-Joey Votto: For a while now, last year’s MVP has been putting up numbers that haven’t been able to be capitalized on by his teammates. However, now the Reds are surging again, similar to last year, and their slugging first baseman is getting the support he needs to drive his team to the top, just like last year. Votto’s Reds faced off against their main rivals in the Cardinals over the weekend, and he responded by out playing all three of the Cardinals MVP candidates, and propelled the Reds back into first place. Overall, he’s at .345, with 5 home runs and 22 RBI on the year, and has the Reds in roughly the same position today as they were a year ago. And that worked out pretty good for them for the rest of the summer. (Runners Up: Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday)

Votto keeps hitting and hitting...and hitting. And now the Reds' wins are following suit as well.

AL-Jose Bautista: This won’t take too long to do. It’s basically just a simple compare and contrast. Last week, I said this about Bautista’s presence in the Jays lineup. And now a week later, that has become 1000% true, as the Jays took home 5 victories after his return and he blasted his way atop the Major League home run leaders as well now, with 16 after his three shot performance in Minnesota on Sunday.

 

KINGS OF THE HILL

NL-Tim Lincecum: For the first time in a while, there’s a new name on top of the best arms in the National League listing. Behind his 17 consecutive scoreless innings, and usual mix of confusing and overpower stuff, the San Francisco Giants have climbed back to the top of the N.L. West. Lincecum has struggled to get many decisions, and his record is only 3-3 on the year, but it’s not because he’s not putting them the Giants in a place to win. Batters are hitting .197 against him, his 66 strikeouts are 2nd in the N.L. and his 2.11 ERA is fourth. Most importantly, his efforts have contributed to the Giants overcoming a four game deficit in the West to now be its leaders. And forget his numbers, that stat is what it’s all about.

AL-Justin Verlander: Verlander didn’t allow a hit over 3 starts and 50 batters in what was nearly back-to-back no hit bids over the last two weeks. There are a lot of guys who have better overall numbers, but his efforts have played a part in inspiring a rebirth of the Tigers, who were quickly becoming mid of the road grinders in the Central. His 62 strikeouts lead the American League, and his 0.94 WHIP number shows just how hard it has become to make any type of impact versus the Tigers big ace. (Runners Up: Trevor Cahill, Dan Haren)

Verlander's un-hittable nature has the Tigers as the fastest rising club in baseball right now.

TRUE.BLUE: The Resurrection of Royal Hope

Posted: May 13, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , ,

– by Matt Oates, Kansas City, MO.

“In all of my life, if I could do one thing differently I’d pick a different baseball team to love. A team that wouldn’t do me like this!! Don’t worry though; I won’t let my kids be Royals fans. No freaking way!!  Maybe Cardinals fans but not Royals fans. I won’t let the Royals stink get all over them. It’s too late for their old man but not them…”

 

I spoke those words just about a year ago on the phone to my good friend and author of this site, Matt Whitener. The Royals had just lost another heartbreaking game and the season was already going down the drain and I had reached my genuine breaking point. I couldn’t take the losing anymore and not just the losing but the embarrassing ways we found to lose.

In the last decade or so, I’ve watched us trade away some of the most important players in MLB over the last decade (Jermaine Dye, Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, etc) and get squat in return. I then watched us call up “Can’t Miss” prospects too early & flame out in The Show. I saw our pitching messiah, Zack Greinke, quit baseball because the losing sent him into a deep depression & social anxiety. I saw the Royals sign Mike Sweeney to a long-term deal and then suffer career debilitating injuries. I saw the Royals start a player no one on the Major League club had even heard of in a spot start in Yankees stadium & get pounded. I saw our manager, in an act to loosen up the team (or of pure lunacy) jump in the shower with all of his clothes on. He’d quit (not fired or forced to resign) as manager a few days later. I saw a cut-off man hit the secondary cut-off man in the back with the relay throw right between the numbers. I watched a routine pop-fly go to the outfield & then watched both of the outfielders running off the field as what should have been the 3rd out dropped to the outfield grass. They both thought the other was going to catch it.

Life after Cy Zack as been much better than anybody could have guessed, much earlier.

In my time as a Royal fan, it’s suffice to say…I’ve seen a lot but for some reason, that day got to me.

After going to college and seeing other fan bases that got to actually enjoy the season, I had become envious. Furthermore, I was embarrassed.

So coming into this season, we traded our top player in Zack Greinke for what looked like the Brewers Pu-Pu platter. We signed a group of veterans off the scrap heap looking for a chance to re-find the magic that made them household names at one time. We went into the season with Luke Hochevar aka “Mr. Not Tim Lincecum” as our opening day starter & Kyle Davies, which according to some sabermetricians, is the worst starting pitcher in the history of Major League baseball as our #2. In essence, we were all told going into this season “Hey, this is a throw away year. We are going to suck and suck bad! In 2012, we will start integrating members of the top-rated minor league program in baseball history but you’ll have to suffer through this year”

*Deep Sigh* Here we go again…

Only this time, something was different. The Royals lost on opening day but then immediately went on a tear to start the season. They either won or tied their first few series on the season. I, of course, am ecstatic. Bruce Chen picked up where he left off last season & is still piling up quality starts. Billy Butler is still ripping the cover off the ball & now accepting the role as the face of the franchise. Mike Aviles, after struggling out the gate, seems to have found his swing again. He still needs to improve defensively though. His arm is not strong enough for 3rd base but he can’t pivot the double play from 2nd base either. Alcides Escobar, a product of the Greinke trade, is a sparkling defender at shortstop despite struggling at the plate. He should get Gold Glove considerations in his career. Wilson Betemit is still an extra base hit machine. Melky Cabrera & Jeff Francoeur have given the team some veteran leadership & also found their mojo at the plate. The young kids in the bullpen: Tim Collins, Aaron Crow & Co. have stabilized the bullpen & effectively cut 2 innings off each game they pitch. As of the morning of May 13th, the Royals have a 20-17 record. More importantly, the Royals & their fans aren’t a joke. No one laughs at me this season when I speak about them. The stadium is buzzing again. The city is talking about them and so are national sports outlets. Do I honestly expect the Royals to keep this up throughout the season? Probably not. Baseball is a long season & we have some serious holes in our starting rotation that still need to be addressed. But that doesn’t mean I won’t bask in this. That won’t stop me from taking this opportunity to brag about the Royals to our friends to the East on I-70.

Best of all, Royals fans…its going to get better.

The Royals have already started calling up parts of their stacked minor league program and inserting them into crucial roles on the team. Eric Hosmer, a recent call-up, is adjusting well to Major League ball after hitting .439 in AAA-Omaha. Aaron Crow worked 15+ innings before allowing a run. Tim Collins is proving to be more than a situational lefty & showing he’s effective on hitters from both sides of the plate. Down on the farm, Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Clint Robinson are tearing it up in AAA-Omaha and behind them are Wil Myers, Jeff Odorizzi, Chris Dwyer and more tearing it up in the lower levels! It’s an excellent time to be a Royals fan.

Homser is the first in what should be a long line of catalysts from the Royals farm system to arrive in KC.

So, as you can tell by now, I made peace with the Royals. Matter of fact, I made peace with them last year shortly after the firing of Trey Hillman & hiring of Ned Yost. Yost is a product of the Atlanta Braves system, as I am also, as my family is originally fromAtlanta. He brings a steady hand to the bench & good leadership & old baseball strategy.

But I have never made peace with my unborn children. I’m sorry y’all. I was going to deny you what might be some of our greatest memories together, rooting for the Royals. I’m confident we’ll have some good times in the future rooting for the boys in blue once you get here.